Monday, December 24, 2007
Media Exposure...Or Lack Thereof
Media exposure is something we African-Americans know about all too well. We've been hit with the negative end of it far too often during our 400 years on American shores or deafening silence when it comes to our positive attributes.
That's true of the transgender community as well. It's one of the reasons I was a co-host on an FM radio show back in my hometown from 1999-2001, started my blog two years ago and up until September wrote a monthly column for almost 4 years in a local GLBT newspaper.
While there are more than a few transgender podcasts and Internet radio shows, the only radio shows I've gotten to do on a regular basis is Ethan St Pierre's and Becky Juro's once. Kat Rose and I have been trying to synchronize our schedules so that I can appear on hers as well.
After I did Becky's show back in May (and the topic was on racism, BTW), I read the comments on her blog about it later. I had one detractor who flat out wrote they couldn't stand me because in their words, 'I acted like I spoke for the entire African-American transgender community.'
One of the reasons it seems as though I 'speak for the African-American transgender community' is because representatives of the African-American transgender community don't appear on these shows often enough.
I'm one of the peeps (along with Dawn Wilson) who's a proud African-American transperson not only willing to be on the air speaking for the community, but has the media background, the education and the experience to not only articulately represent my African-American community but the transgender one as a whole.
But one of the problems is that when these media opportunities come up, rarely are African-Americans chosen to be the spokespeople for the community at large. We saw that over and over again this year with Larry King and other mainstream talk shows. Only Tyra Banks featured African-American transpeople on her transgender-oriented shows this year.
So when we do get that rare media op, we have it in the back of our minds that we have ground to make up. We make sure that we are on point with our facts, are knowledgeable, get some points in about our experiences as African-American transpeople, and cover as much ground as possible in the time we have slotted for us on the various transgender oriented shows. We also want to make sure we don't have a Sherri Shepherd moment on these shows as well.
The point is whether you want to admit it or not, there are TWO Americas. Black and White Americans look at the same issues through different prisms. The same is true of Black and White Transgender America as well.
But since some white transpeeps disagree mightily with what I have to say, I have to wonder sometimes if there is a conscious effort afloat to keep me (and Dawn) at arms length from those media opportunities until they can find a more pliable Condoleezza Rice clone to give 'the African-American transgender viewpoint' in a more palatable version to white ears.
My views are not the ONLY African-American transgender ones. If you spent time on my TSTB list you'd discover I have people calling me out on a list I founded. I'm not the first or only African-American transperson that's been interviewed by a newspaper reporter or had a mic or TV camera stuck in their face. I've just been more willing to speak on the record when the camera starts taping or the tape recorder starts rolling.
My point is that the transgender community is NOT a monolithic one. Transgender people come in a variety of flavors and shades as well. If you are serious about getting transpeople included in any civil rights bill in 2009, that message has to be relentlessly hammered home in 2008 by a rainbow of transgender people.
The only faces that Mr. and Ms. America see of transpeople can no longer be just white ones.